Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, October 27, 2017

"Talkies" Make It To Elk River

Transitioning from silent movies to “talkies” challenged any number of local movie theaters in the United States.  Elk River held a unique position in entertainment history as the local newspaper documented and criticized the efforts to introduce sound motion pictures to Sherburne County. 
Advertisement for the first sound motion
picture at the Elk Theatre, March 1930

The manager of the Elk Theatre announced plans to introduce “talkies” in the spring of 1930.  Referred to as “Manager Kizer,” the Sherburne County Star News reported the theater manager would close entertainment spot in February.  After two weeks of redecorating and remodeling, “talkies” would entertain the Sherburne County public.  The theater set a goal of February 22, 1930 to introduce the new technology.  Kizer missed his deadline and opened in March. 

The technology to the new motion pictures “gives the very best of sound picture effects,” Kizer promised.  And, with much fanfare and advertising, the first motion picture with sound in Elk River offered two different selections.  The grand opening featured a musical, “Words and Music.”  A midweek offering featured Will Rogers in the movie “They Had To See Paris.”  Unfortunately, reviews of the “talkies” suggested the sound from the films was an inferior form of entertainment.  The newspaper noted a “rasping and echoing which bothered a great deal.”  Kizer and the newspaper speculated the theater needed some renovations to improve acoustics.  The Elk Theatre discontinued “talkies” until the sound issues could be resolved. 

After some renovation work, motion pictures with sound reappeared in the Elk Theatre in September of 1930.  The reintroduction of sound featured a well known movie, “The Sophomore” starring Eddie Quillen and Sally O’Neil. The Star News reported a much improved sound system with the theater renovations. 

The newspaper failed to review the improvements to the theater.  But, the hard work of Kizer must have paid off.  The theater continued to show “talkies” while the silent motion pictures ended in Elk River.  

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